Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola claimed starting spots for the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race after each won a segment during the NASCAR All-Star Open at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, June 13. For the final transfer spot, Matt DiBenedetto earned a one-way ticket into the main event after being named the Fan Vote winner.
The starting lineup was determined via driver points, making Tyler Reddick starting on pole position while Chris Buescher joined him on the front row.
Prior to the race, Ross Chastain dropped to the rear of the field due to a violation discovered on his car pinpointing to his aero ducts. As a result, crew chief Phil Surgen was suspended from the weekend and Chip Ganassi Racing was fined $25,000. Austin Cindric (two pre-race inspection failures) and David Starr (unapproved adjustments) also started at the rear of the field.
When the green flag waved and the race started for the first segment, Buescher jumped ahead and battled Reddick for the lead entering the first turn before Reddick received a push from Matt DiBenedetto on the inside lane to take the lead.
With the field jostling for position behind, Reddick led the first lap. Meanwhile, Buescher and rookie Chase Briscoe made their way into second and third over DiBenedetto as Bubba Wallace and Erik Jones joined the battle.
Then, NASCAR declared that Buescher has been assessed a penalty for jumping ahead of the leader, Reddick, prior to the start of the event. In addition, Cindric was penalized for changing lanes at the start of the race.
On the fourth lap, the caution flew when Wallace, who was running in fourth place ahead of Erik Jones and Matt DiBenedetto, got loose and spun in Turn 1 before coming to a rest below the apron. Despite the spin, Wallace continued with no damage to his No. 23 DoorDash Toyota Camry.
Under caution, Wallace pitted along with Daniel Suarez, Quin Houff, Garrett Smithley, Austin Cindric and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Following the pit stops, Stenhouse was assessed an over-the-wall too soon penalty.
When the race restarted on the eighth lap, Reddick retained the lead over Briscoe, Jones and the field through the first two turns. Not long after, the caution returned when Buescher spun in Turn 3 following a bump from Stenhouse.
Under caution, Buescher pitted along with Stenhouse and Josh Bilicki.
When the race restarted on Lap 13, Reddick retained the lead followed by Jones, Briscoe and the field.
Two corners later, trouble ensued again when Jones, who battled hard against Briscoe, slipped up and spun sideways, where he was hit by Daniel Suarez before spinning back up to the wall with heavy damage as Suarez also made contact with the outside wall. The wreck was enough to knock Suarez and Jones out of contention to make the All-Star Race.
Under caution, Briscoe pitted, but was busted for speeding on pit road.
On Lap 18, the race restarted as Reddick and Ross Chastain started on the front row. At the start, Reddick and Chastain battled for the lead entering the backstretch while DiBenedetto and Corey LaJoie made a three-wide move on Almirola to move up towards the front.
Coming to the final lap of the first segment, Chastain made his move on the outside lane of Reddick through Turns 3 and 4 and he was able to grab the lead past the start/finish line. Through Turn 1, Chastain was able to clear Reddick and pull away.
Following his surge on the final lap, Chastain, who rallied from starting at the rear of the field following pre-race inspection issues, rocketed away to win the first segment on Lap 20 and race his way into the All-Star Race for the first time in his career, joining teammate Kurt Busch in the main event.
“It’s really cool,” Chastain said on FS1. “It’s been a good weekend on-track, but off-track, it’s obviously been really tough. Just fired me up more. This McDonald’s Chevy was obviously really good, coming from the back like that and race with guys like Reddick and those guys. I thought I was getting turned on the backstretch there when he drove into the left rear, but it’s a dream come true. Man, I’m living my dream as a farmer. Now, I get to go NASCAR racing in the All-Star Race with my heroes. It’s amazing.”
Under the segment break, LaJoie pitted along with Justin Haley, Cody Ware, Houff, James Davison, Timmy Hill and David Starr.
At the start of the second segment, Reddick received a push from Cindric on the outside lane to retain the lead ahead of DiBenedetto and Cindric. Meanwhile, Buescher and Almirola battled for fourth place followed by Wallace and Stenhouse.
By Lap 25, Reddick was the leader followed by Cindric, DiBenedetto, Almirola and Buescher. Wallace was in sixth followed by Briscoe, Stenhouse, rookie Anthony Alfredo and LaJoie.
A few laps later, DiBenedetto and Almirola overtook Cindric for second and third. Meanwhile, Reddick continued to lead by nearly a second.
By Lap 30, Reddick was leading by four-tenths of a second over DiBenedetto, with Almirola trailing by nearly a second. Behind, Cindric and Buescher battled for fourth place while Wallace retained sixth place.
With five laps remaining in the second segment, Reddick was still leading despite encountering lapped traffic, but he had Almirola closing in for the lead.
Down to the final two laps of the segment, Almirola drew his car behind Reddick’s rear bumper, but he could not navigate his way around Reddick to take the lead,
On the final lap of the second segment, Reddick was leading by under two-tenths of a second over Almirola, who continued to keep Reddick in pressure. Despite Almirola’s late surge, Reddick was able to beat Almirola by nearly three-tenths of a second to win the second segment on Lap 40 as Reddick transferred to his first All-Star Race, joining teammate Austin Dillon.
“Thankfully, we executed in the second segment,” Reddick said. “We got this thing in the race. That was the hottest 40-lap race I’ve ever done. That was hot.”
Under the segment break, Stenhouse pitted along with Briscoe, Haley, B.J. McLeod and Garrett Smithley.
With 10 laps remaining, the final segment commenced under green. At the start, the field battled through two lanes as Almirola and DiBenedetto battled dead even for the lead. Following a close side-by-side battle with DiBenedetto for a full lap, Almirola pulled ahead with the lead.
With five laps remaining, Almirola was leading by nearly half a second over DiBenedetto and Buescher. Cindric and Briscoe were in the top five followed by Wallace, Haley, Alfredo, Stenhouse and LaJoie.
As Almirola continued to lead, DiBenedetto and Buescher battled for the runner-up spot as both were behind by seven-tenths of a second.
Having a clear lead to his advantage, Almirola, who has endured a difficult 2021 season, was able to navigate his way around the circuit for a final time and come back around to take the checkered flag and win the NASCAR All-Star Open as he punched his ticket into the All-Star Race for the fourth time in his career, joining teammates Kevin Harvick and Cole Custer.
“It just helps make you happy about something,” Almirola said. “It’s been a really tough year and the guys just continued to work their guts out and bring the best cars we can. And here at Texas today, we got a really fast car. We took the long way in, but I’m still glad we’re racing for a million bucks tonight. Just proud to give [my sponsors] something to smile about, really.”
Despite finishing in the runner-up spot, Matt DiBenedetto claimed the 21st and final starting spot to the All-Star Race after being named the Fan Vote winner, a move that allowed him to transfer into the All-Star event for a second consecutive season.
“That’s a relief,” DiBenedetto said. “We struggled a little bit with the car there, but man, thank you so much. That’s really cool. It means a lot to get all the votes from the fans. I can’t tell them how much I appreciate that and an opportunity to be an All-Star.”
Buescher finished in third place followed by Briscoe and Cindric. Wallace rallied to finish sixth followed by Haley, Alfredo, Stenhouse and LaJoie. All eight competitors were among the remaining 18 competitors competing in the Open whom failed to make the All-Star Race.
There were three lead changes for three different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 13 laps.
1. Aric Almirola – Won third segment, 10 laps led
2. Matt DiBenedetto – Fan Vote winner
3. Chris Buescher
4. Chase Briscoe
5. Austin Cindric
6. Bubba Wallace
7. Justin Haley
8. Anthony Alfredo
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
10. Corey LaJoie
11. Cody Ware
12. B.J. McLeod
13. Josh Bilicki
14. Garrett Smithley
15. Quin Houff, one lap down
16. James Davison, one lap down
17. Timmy Hill, one lap down
18. David Starr, one lap down
19. Tyler Reddick – Won second segment, 38 laps led
20. Ross Chastain – Won first segment, two laps led
21. Erik Jones – OUT, Accident
22. Daniel Suarez – OUT, Accident
The 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway will follow suit on Sunday, June 13, at 8 p.m. on FS1.